My family and my religon

I am 14 years old in a christian house. I had decided at 10 that I was agnostic and now I am leaning towards atheism. I really don’t want to go to church anymore. I become emotionally and physically sick by the end of it because of irrational phobias I have. But my parents are complete and utter bible thumpers. I have tried bribing them, pleading with them, expressing my legal rights, making myself sick, ignoring them, and even just talking to them… what more can I possibly do now?

Posted: April 16th 2011

Paula Kirby www

Blaise and Reed have given you excellent advice, and I, too, sympathise wholeheartedly with your situation.

I’m going to come at this from a slightly different angle, leaving the specifically religious question to one side (you’ve already had some excellent advice from the other respondents) and simply focusing on the reality that you find yourself, at 14, in a home situation that is undeniably extremely difficult to cope with.

There is nothing I can offer you that will resolve the situation, I’m afraid. All I can share with you is that I, too, at that age, found myself living in a home that – for quite different reasons from yours – was almost unbearable to me. My parents had an extremely difficult and unhappy marriage, and my father spent at least 4/5 of his life in the grip of a violent rage, so my home life was full of fear. When I was about your age, I decided to adopt a strategy that would get me through, and this is what it was.

First, I faced up to the simple reality that, until I could leave to go to university, there was absolutely nothing I could do to change the situation at home. There was no point wasting any time on wishful thinking or resentment: it was just the way things were.

Second, I recognised that, although my home life was pretty horrendous, I didn’t have to let that affect me when I was away from home – at school, for instance, or with friends.

Third, I positively resolved that I simply WOULD NOT ALLOW my home situation to spoil anything that I could prevent it spoiling. There were aspects of my life that I couldn’t stop it spoiling, but it damn well wasn’t going to spoil the rest.

And so I started making closing the front door behind me in the mornings a symbolic act. As I closed the door, I visualised trapping all my home troubles behind it so they could not follow me as I embarked on my day. I simply REFUSED to allow the situation at home to have a negative impact on my life outside the home.

I won’t pretend it always worked. There were days when things were so bad that of course I couldn’t just shut them out. But most of the time it did work, and I derived enormous confidence and satisfaction from knowing that I had hit on a strategy that generally allowed me to cope. I honestly don’t know how I’d have got through without it. So here it is again in a nutshell: as a teenager there are aspects of your life which, no matter how awful and unfair and wrong, you cannot control. Those have to be simply accepted and got through as best you can. But you can resolve here and now that you will make the very most of the parts of your life that are not under your parents’ control. And you can cling to the thought, and draw comfort from it, that the day WILL come when you will be free of all this and will be able to live as you choose to live, free of your parents’ control. I know that, at 14, that day must feel an awful long way off. But it WILL come, I promise; and you WILL get through this, and be stronger for it.

Good luck!

Posted: April 18th 2011

See all questions answered by Paula Kirby

Reed Braden www

Unfortunately, your rights are not as extensive as you think they are at the age of 14. Your parents can make you go to church against your will until you’re 18, so if they’re unmovable on the issue the only thing protesting further will do is tear apart your family.

If it’s truly an extreme problem, bordering on abuse, talk to your school’s guidance counselor or a therapist or some other adult who might be able to help you figure out and fix this situation. Otherwise, the best thing you can do is play along without giving up your principles. Go to church, listen to the pastor, and take notes on the sermon, marking key phrases you can refute and developing arguments against the preacher’s claims. At the end of the service, when the pastor asks people to come to the front for the invitation, bring him the pages of your notes and your arguments and, without making a scene, give them to him and go back to your seat. Do this every week.

If your parents force you into small group sessions like Bible study or Sunday school, do the same thing: Pay attention and engage the instructor in debate. If you try to de-convert too many people, the church won’t let you come back and your parents can’t make you go.

That’s what I did. :-D

Posted: April 18th 2011

See all questions answered by Reed Braden

Blaise www

My young friend, you are in a terrible position, and I sympathize with your plight. It took a strong person to tell powerfully religious parents that you reject their religion. I admire that strength.

I’m concerned about your statements that you are becoming physically sick, and suffering from phobias. If your parents are ignoring these problems, you need to find help outside the home; a counselor at school, a teacher you trust, even a social worker.

As for the situation with church, you may have already exhausted all of your active options with your parents. It might be time to drop that avenue, and focus instead on how to deal with this difficult situation internally.

For example, what worked for me when sitting in church at your age was learning to meditate. Rather than feeling like I was being held captive, I turned my attention inward, and escaped into my own thoughts. You can find loads of resources on meditation online, or in books at your local library.

Another choice I’ve heard fellow non-believers talk about is looking at the experience from a different perspective. Try pretending that you are an anthropologist, studying the rituals of a primitive tribe in a rain forest somewhere. Don’t pay attention so much to the content of the words, but rather to the kinds of things that are being said, and the way they are said. Catalog the reactions of those around you, and try to find what the whole experience says about the individuals taking part in it.

Whatever else, don’t lose hope. You aren’t alone. There are loads of people in your position. More and more every year, in fact. In just a few years, you’ll be an adult, out of your parents home and able to make your own decisions, and things WILL be better for you!

Posted: April 18th 2011

See all questions answered by Blaise


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